Preservation Groups File Application, Start Petition to Protect Soho House Building

139 Ludlow St. Photo: Friends of the Lower East Side.

139 Ludlow St. Photo: Friends of the Lower East Side.
139 Ludlow St. Photo: Friends of the Lower East Side.

Local preservationists are moving forward with their application to win landmark status for the former H. Nieberg Funeral Home at 139 Ludlow St.  We first reported on the effort last October, as part of the protracted campaign by Soho House to open a new Lower East Side club in the historic building.  The club was victorious in its controversial bid for a liquor license, which included a pledge to work with preservation groups to protect the 1930 Neo-Gothic-style structure.

In a press release, the Friends of the Lower East Side and the East Village Community Coalition announced they had submitted an application to the Landmarks Preservation Commission.  They’re urging supporters to sign an online petition (it’s available here).  The application was submitted in collaboration with

Friends of Terra Cotta and Kerri Culhane, a local architectural historian.  Here’s more from the release:

“With its 1930 Neo-Gothic-style façade, clad in brick and cream-colored terra cotta, the building is the only one of its kind on the Lower East Side,” wrote Joyce Mendelsohn, author of The Lower East Side Remembered and Revisited. Its façade is completely intact and an excellent example of the elaborate terra-cotta ornament popular in the first quarter of the twentieth century.The fact that the building retains its original commercial first floor facade adds to its overall integrity and significance.  Many funeral homes, like H. Nieberg, evolved from livery stables, providing all the necessary arrangements, from removal of the body to burial, and were viewed as important religious structures in the community.  The structure spans 143 years and reflects the growth and development of the neighborhood through its changing usage: from a hay and feed store and single dwelling to apartments and a stable, from an automobile garage and Jewish funeral home to a printing plant and high-tech company and, currently, planned for a private members’ club connected to an international network. In 1925, Harry Nieberg handled the highly publicized funeral and burial of noted gangster Morris Grossman, attracting a crowd of more than 5,000 spectators.Described in 1937 in the New York Evening Post as “the huge and jovial Ludlow Street undertaker,” Harry Nieberg became a well-known figure in New York City during his ownership of the building.He was admired locally for his generosity.In 1928, the New York Times reported on Nieberg’s efforts to raise funds to bury an impoverished Roman Catholic neighbor.This act of kindness was characteristic of Nieberg who offered twenty-five free funerals a year to impoverished New Yorkers.Politically, Nieberg was celebrated for challenging the corruption of Tammany Hall, although his Congressional campaigns in 1935 and 1937 – against Christopher D. Sullivan, brother of Tammany boss “Big Tim” Sullivan – were not successful.

139 Ludlow St. was sold for $8.8 million a couple of years ago.  In recent Buildings Department records, both a Soho House operations director and an executive with a development firm known as Cardinal Investments are listed as “owner representatives.”   In a hearing before the State Liquor Authority last fall, Soho House attorney Donald Bernstein said the company was “agreeable to working with a local organization to landmark the facade (of 139 Ludlow).” Je added, “It’s something we can help the community to achieve.”